Health, hunger, hygiene. These rank among the highest needs throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Care to Learn’s Greater St. Louis region continues to deal with an unprecedented rise in children who are going without these basic human essentials – and founder Doug Pitt discusses how the organization has kept a pulse on children in the community.
“One of the biggest surprises we saw started last summer,” he says. “We had kids out of school [and] about seven out of every 10 kids who needed Care to Learn assistance were brand new to the program. A 70 percent increase? The increase has been monumental.”
Care to Learn typically operates within its partnering school district chapters by providing access to essentials like food, clothing, prescription eyeglasses and more through school staff. It’s often the teachers or bus drivers or people who work directly with area children that convey unmet needs to the nonprofit.
“We take a lot of pride in running Care to Learn like a business,” Pitt says. “We stay in our lane of health, hunger and hygiene. We focus on…operating in our schools. During the pandemic, sometimes the rulebook gets thrown out.”
Care to Learn has expanded beyond its relationships in Ferguson and North County to work with Mercy Health systems in its new clinic, enabling the organization to feed 1,000 families in neighboring school districts.
“Kids were hurting,” Pitt expresses. “They needed help. So, we had to go off script. At the end of the day, we were able to feed and help give supplies to a thousand families outside of our normal school chapters, three different times.”
The ability to live up to that level of commitment is something Pitt credits to a community that responds when its children are in crisis.
“We live in an amazing place where we have a lot of generous folks and companies that understand…we are on the frontlines for these kids,” he says. “We’ve never said ‘no’ to one child during this whole pandemic. That support has been invaluable.”
He is excited to celebrate that community partnership at the upcoming, in-person fundraiser, A Night at the Sands Las Vegas, a sixties-style event with thematic elements of the decade the Rat Pack ruled the town.
“People are thrilled to get together,” Pitt says. “When you rally around something like Care to Learn, where you know your efforts are helping kids, it makes that a win-win-win.”
Black tie and creative dress are encouraged at the fundraiser, with sponsorships beginning at $1,000. Stay up to date on event details at caretolearn.org/ratpack60s.
“We’re social creatures,” Pitt says, admitting to pandemic fatigue. “That ability to get together, share a glass of wine and have these conversations…It’s something that we as adults need for ourselves. It’s one of the biggest, most fun events that I attend in St. Louis.”
Care to Learn has 38 chapters in Missouri and five within the metro area at Bayless, Hazelwood, St. Charles, Warrenton and Wright City. In the coming year, the organization aims to add more chapters in the region to address the community’s need on a bigger level.
Pitt encourages people and companies to reach out, noting that Care to Learn is always happy to pay a visit and help however possible as a partner.
He adds: “Right now, the need count is extremely high – and the need for funds continues every day, so that we never have to say ‘no.’”
Care to Learn Headquarters, 1740 S. Glenstone Ave., Suite R, Springfield, Missouri 65804, 314-656-6096, caretolearn.org/greaterstlouisregion
A NIGHT AT THE SANDS LAS VEGAS
Friday, Sept. 17, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Palladium St. Louis,
1400 Park Place, St. Louis
Care to Learn - Greater St. Louis Region’s 3rd Annual Fundraiser.
Learn more at caretolearn.org/ratpack60s